The Lost Man, by Jane Harper

Eight stars

Having thoroughly enjoyed Jane Harper’s first two novels, I was eager to try this, a standalone, to see how connected I felt. While the story was definitely different, it grew on me and helped cement the sentiment that Harper is one of those authors sure to be recommended by those who read her work. When the body of Cameron Bright is found in the middle of an open parcel of land in Western Australia, questions abound. Discovered on the property of one of his brothers, a vast expanse of over 700 square kilometres, no one can be quite sure what happened or if there was foul play. As temperatures rise above 45 degrees Celsius, he could have perished from dehydration, particularly because he was found well away from his vehicle. The flat plains and no one having seen anything also limits the possibility that a stranger completed a nefarious act. As Nathan and Bub try to work through what happened to their brother, news comes from others within the clan, stories that have been kept under wraps until Cameron’s passing. Could some of the middle brother’s antics be coming to haunt him? With a large group of potential suspects and a fairly new member of the police force supervising this vast region, it’s anybody’s guess as to what happened and who might be involved, not to mention what motive might be at play. But, with Christmas approaching, answers will need to be found, if only to put the entire matter to rest. Harper keeps the reader guessing until the final pages, in this wonderfully unique Australian mystery. Recommended for those who have enjoyed the Aaron Falk series and all those who like something a little different.

I have long had a fascination with Australia and novels set on that side of the world. I cannot put my finger on it, but I’ve been lucky to have had some wonderful authors depict the area effectively, including Jane Harper. While the terrain differs greatly from my Canadian homeland, the people seem relatively similar, allowing me to have a strong connection and affinity for those who live in and around Australia and New Zealand. Harper introduces the reader to both Bub and Nathan Bright in the early stages of this novel, brothers who have spent much of their lives in a farming family in Western Australia. Their coming upon the third brother in the family, Cameron, takes its toll on them differently, as can be seen in the way Harper depicts them. Not only that, but their abilities to process the news and develop a plan to get to the bottom of what happens seems also to contrast. Nathan struggles with his teenage son, Xander, as well, which only adds to some of the backstory and development that Harper heaps upon the man. Adding a large cast of secondary characters, including multiple generations of Brights and some who married into the family, permits Harper to explore the family dynamic in even more ways, as secrets are revealed and news is shared between the branches. While somewhat a murder mystery, I would also classify this as a novel of familial discovery, as the ‘onion’ is peeled back and those closest to others discover just how little they know. Harper weaves this storyline through the curiosities of rural Australia and how isolation can also flavour this mystery. The end result is a captivating piece that will keep the reader guessing as the react to the news that comes from a variety of sources. Harper has does well, even if fans of the Aaron Falk series are begging for more. Sure to whet the appetite and bring new fans into the fold!

Kudos, Madam Harper, for another wonderful novel. Unique in its delivery, but surely satisfying and intriguing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: